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PhD researcher Megan Davis from The Australian National University has become the first Australian Indigenous woman elected to a UN body.
Ms Davis has won a position on the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII), a body that advises the UN on indigenous issues related to economic and social development, culture, the environment, education, health and human rights.
“This is a great result for Megan Davis and a credit to her ability as an Indigenous advocate and legal specialist,” said the acting ANU Vice-Chancellor, Professor Lawrence Cram. “We congratulate her and look forward to seeing her contribution to this important international forum.”
In another first, Ms Davis is also the first Australian Aboriginal person to be nominated by the Commonwealth Government for a UN role. The lawyer and academic was put forward by the Government to sit on the UNPFII, whose members are voted on by countries in the UN’s Economic and Social Council.
“This is an exciting opportunity for me,” Ms Davis said. “I was very honoured to be nominated by the Federal Government to this position. As an international human rights lawyer I look forward to contributing to the development of indigenous peoples’ rights in international law.”
Ms Davis is a PhD scholar at the Regulatory Institutions Network at ANU, studying Aboriginal women and the right to self-determination. She is also Senior Lecturer and Director of the Indigenous Law Centre at the University of New South Wales, and will soonbe a visiting scholar at the National Centre for Indigenous Studies (NCIS) at ANU.
NCIS Director Professor Mick Dodson congratulated Ms Davis on her election. Professor Dodson finishes his current term on the UNPFII this year. Unlike Ms Davis, he was an Indigenous nominee to the body and not a government-sponsored candidate.
“Megan Davis is an excellent choice for this forum,” Professor Dodson said. “Her existing international experience will be a bonus and I am confident she will fiercely and independently stand up for the rights and fundamental freedoms of all indigenous peoples.”
This is not the first time Ms Davis has experienced life at the UN. She has also been the first former UN Indigenous Fellow, based in Geneva with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Ms Davis’s position on the UNPFII will begin in 2011 for a three-year term.